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U.S. health task force addresses sex and gender inclusivity in guidelines

People who are transgender, gender nonconforming and gender nonbinary can face health care barriers ranging from negative experiences to unclear health guidelines.

Now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is adopting a policy to help address those issues.

The task force periodically issues recommendations for preventive health care. But that advice is based on research that often ties results to sex assigned at birth and only rarely differentiates sex and gender.

That makes it difficult for doctors and patients to know which advice applies; cervical cancer screenings apply to anyone with a cervix, but the breast cancer risk faced by someone who is transgender is unclear.

Moving forward, the task force will review research with these issues in mind, include stakeholders from diverse sex and gender backgrounds, use gender-neutral language when appropriate and clarify whether guidelines apply to people with specific anatomy or in certain gender identity categories.

Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk from 2016 to 2024.